Why did I start Narrated Guide?

[@portabletext/react] Unknown block type "undefined", specify a component for it in the `components.types` prop
Narrated Guide Logo

By Narrated Guide

Hi everyone, I’m Kaycee, the founder of Narrated Guide 👋.

I’ve been getting a lot of questions on why I started Narrated Guide so I thought I’d share my story here for those who are interested.

The Origin Story

The reason why I started Narrated Guide is directly linked to all the things I love about travelling and the things that I felt were missing when I was travelling.

If I look back, I guess the first time I really travelled was when I was nine years old. My mum had built up a life in the UK on her own and in October 2023, she asked if I wanted to come with her to the UK.

I said “yes” because that felt like the right answer. But if I was honest, I didn’t.

The idea sounded glamorous but I wasn’t ready to leave home, my family, friends and general familiarity.

Luckily for the adult-me, my mum’s question wasn’t a real question and “yes” really was the right answer.

So mid-October, we left our hometown in Shenyang and travelled to Beijing by train. We did some sightseeing in Beijing and then got a long-haul flight from Beijing to London.

Whilst in Beijing, when we were walking along the Great Wall of China, my mum was tired half way through but I was dying to keep going. So, in the end, I left my mum in a safe spot and entrusted myself with a soldier on holiday.

He looked after me for the rest of the walk and I had a great time.

The rest of the journey is a blur now but I remember distinctively, whilst I was on this 11 hour flight, I remember panicking about not being able to communicate with anyone (I didn't speak any English at this point), not being able to make any friends. And then I calmly, naïvely, said to my inner demons (in Chinese): “It’s okay, China is such a big country, people must be able to speak Chinese, right?”

Yes, even for a nine-year-old, the idea of relocating to a different continent was daunting. But, on the road, in transit, I was able to forget all of my worries.

Looking back, I think this was the origin story to how I like to travel now.

What's Your Travel Style?

There are a lot of reasons why we love travelling and going on holiday. I believe it’s all slightly different for each of us.

Some people love spending a week somewhere and taking it slow, really absorbing the culture.

Some people love visiting the museums to get a better sense of the history of a place.

Some people see travelling as a journey of self-discovery. Others see travelling as a means to enjoy nature or other adventurous activities.

For me, travelling is a freeing experience. When I travel, I feel like I’ve entered another spacetime dimension.

My Travel Spacetime Dimension

Here, there is only joy. I am anonymous and the only things I need to worry about is what would make me happy, happier or happiest.

I consider myself very privileged to be able to travel 3-5 times a year. Had I not come with my mum to the UK, I’m not sure if this would have been possible. Plus, the British passport is much more powerful than a Chinese passport, a visa-free experience is always a good start.

Over time, I found out exactly what my travel style is: Minimal, flexible, somewhat cultured and, preferably, fairly inexpensive.

More specifically, I knew what I liked and didn’t like.

I liked city holidays with some elements of nature. I didn’t like packaged holidays or group tours or beach holidays.

I liked the idea of walking tours but didn’t enjoy it in real life. I mean I loved listening to the history of a place and truly appreciated a tour guide’s insight but, for me, there were too many things that I didn’t love about walking tours itself:

You might think I’m just being fussy but in my travel spacetime dimension, in my happy place, I don’t want to settle. I think I deserve to maximise on what brings me joy and minimise the things that do not.

So after going on a few walking tours, I stopped. For years, I would just read up about a point of interest before or after visiting it, if I remembered to do so. It was a make-do kind of situation, my attention span never lasted very long and it hurt my eyes.

Then, I picked up coding. Once I could confidently code a full-stack web application, I built out my own travel guide.

My Personal Tour Guide In My Pocket

The first one I built was for Basel in September 2023. It was purely for myself.

Before I went to Basel, I compiled information on the major landmarks and sightseeing spots and converted it to audio.

When I got to Basel, at each point of interest, all I had to do was press play on my phone. I was able to take in the sights whilst listening to its history and interesting stories.

It was revolutionary for me. It was everything I had wanted and, in that moment, as I stood outside the Basler Münster listening to the narrated guide telling me all about its architecture, I really did feel like it elevated my travel experience.

It was like having a personal tour guide in my pocket.

It felt like I got my freedom back. I can travel however I want, whenever I want, without losing insight on what I’m seeing.

There was no rigid schedule, no tiptoeing to see, no crowds, no anxiety. I can finally travel my way: minimally, flexibly, somewhat cultured and fairly inexpensive.

What About Multilingual Families?

Then I remembered when I travelled to Seville with my mum in March 2023, how she struggled to find Chinese audio guides at certain museums and sightseeing spots. For an online, on-demand audio guide, adding a multilingual feature was a relatively easy fix.

I’m looking forward to the next time my mum and I travel together. She can listen to our narrated guide in Chinese while I listen to the same content but in English. That way, we are still having a shared experience, I don’t have to translate for her and we can talk about the content properly afterwards!

What Narrated Guide Is and What I Want For Narrated Guide

When I first shared the idea of Narrated Guide online, there was a misconception that I was trying to replace tour guides. Not at all.

I want to work collaboratively with local travel guides and travel writers to build an experience for travellers like myself.

If you’re a local guide or travel writer and want to work together, please let me know via the Contact Form below. I’d love to discuss more!

Narrated Guide is simply a solution for people who like to travel in the same way that I do.

It's intended to be a valuable alternative for the budget travellers, a shared experience for the multilingual families and a way to travel at your own pace without losing insight on the history and interesting stories.

If this is something you’re looking for, give Narrated Guide a try! I’d love to hear what you think, what you like about it and what are the areas that we can improve to provide more value to travellers like us.